The metaphysics of Leibniz, in contrast to the view of Materialism. 

[Comments greatly appreciated]

There are two domains of being according to Leibniz: 
physical existence and mental or nonphysical existence.

In contrast, modern Materialism holds that there is no nonphysical or
mental existence. This view is called Nominalism, the view that abstract 
concepts (universals) have no independent existence, but only exist as names. 
Certainly Materialism falls under this classification, 
since there is no such being to them as the nonphysical.

However, although some consider Leibniz to be a nominalist, 
he does not seem to be so simply classified, since he allowed 
for mental or nonphysical existence, these to be correlated
to (dependent on) their physical correlates. Leibniz also
believed, if we accept this point of view, that there are pure 
ideas without physical correlates. such as logic and the 
natural numbers. [In my view, mathematical theories, such
as those of physics, attempt only to define physical behavior,
which would seem instead to belong to the domain of ideas.]

Beyond this, there is a major division of beliefs concerning what is real 
and what is not. Materialists believe that only physical entities can be 
said to be real, while  Idealists believe the opposite, that physical 
realities in fact they are mental realities (ideas) , the physical being 
transitory or ill-defined.

Yet at the same time, 

"In this (materialist)  view, it is only actual physical particulars that 
can be said to be real, and universals exist only post res, that is, 
subsequent to particular things."

[Here "post res" means for all that we can only know what a thing does--
how it behaves --not what it actually consists of.  And how it behaves
must be as particles in spacetime.  It is open to question, depending 
on how you define "existence", whether or not this includes quanta, 
since quanta "exist" only as a probability field in spacetime, not
as particles. Quanta only become physical particles when the field is 
probed at a certain location, so that the physical probabliity p there
becomes p= 1. ]

"Physical" then refers to entities existing in spacetime, such as in
the brain, while "nonphysical" refers to entities such as Mind which
are not physical, but are metaphysical, that is, not existing in spacetime.

Leibniz believed that only individual things, which he called substances, exist,
which raises two related fundamental questions:

1) What is a substance ? Could it be the fundamental particles ?   And 
2) What does  "to exist " mean ?

Follwing Leibniz, Kant  partially clarified these issues, observing that 
we cannot know what a thing is actually made of (the thing -in-iteself),
we  can only know phenomena --how a thing behaves--that is to say, 
by physical laws. 

Even through we may be able to obtain a physical image of a hydrogen molecule, 
consisting of an electron orbiting a proton, these are fundamental particles,
which might be broken down into smaller particles, but we still cannot tell
what these particles are made of.  Of what does an electron consist ?  

But I believe that we can now say what existence means. It means to
be part of spacetime. But we can only know the position and momentum 
of the particle

Thus we can only give a name to a fundamental particle, we do
not know what it consists of, and that this "stuff" is known  
only be how it behaves (its phenomenology), not by what it is
(its ontology). We can only describe how it behaves mathematically,
being observant that this description is only of how the
partile behaves, not of what it actually is.

Dr. Roger Clough NIST (ret.) 6/10/2013 
See my Leibniz site at

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
"Everything List" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email 
To post to this group, send email to
Visit this group at
For more options, visit

Reply via email to